05 July 2013

Genealogy World -- Real Life -- Can we just all play "nicer" in this sandbox we share?


Used based on Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

by Diane L Richard, Editor Upfront with NGS

Caveat – as Dick Eastman says – this piece does contain personal opinions!  And, in this case, those opinions expressed are purely mine and they are NOT the opinions of NGS, though they are about the genealogical community!  That said ...

The Legal Genealogist (Judy G Russell) often talks about the law and how it impacted our ancestors, how we can use it to learn more about their lives, how it should be interpreted, and how it impacts us as we do our research, and much more.

The law is very important in our lives just as it was in the lives of our ancestors.

You may or may not know that there had been a legal suit, involving genealogists we are familiar with – Cynthia Howell (aka Cyndi’s list) and Barry Ewell (MyGenShare.com).

This case was recently “dismissed with prejudice.”  Read a brief statement here. We will never know the full details of what mediated agreement was reached. 

We do know that our genealogy community has witnessed this most “basic” right to sue.  It is unfortunate that such became necessary and that it did is now part of history ...

On Facebook (FB) (and I’m sure elsewhere) there have been some “discussion” about the merits and fall-out of this case – fairly passionate in support of both parties, curious about the details, and much more.  Unfortunately, it is easy to become negative towards one another for our views and with regards to what are the perceived merits of the case, its resolution, personal history with those involved, etc.

Now let’s turn to Ancestry.com – many of us are individual subscribers or use this database via our local library, etc.

Our genealogical community recently “embroiled” itself in another seemingly contentious issue – that of Ancestry.com’s Old Search vs New Search.  People are very passionate about this.  Passionate we can all support though there has also been a lot of negativity, and I mean, a LOT!  Dick Eastman (EOGN) captures it best with his blog post A Comment About all the Comments Concerning Ancestry.com's Old Search versus New Search.

I am personally bothered by all the negativity I have read recently in online genealogy forums – not just about these two high-profile situations and just in general.  It has taken many forms and much of it is excruciating painful to read – there are many genealogy-related forums that I no longer participate in or even read because of the excessive negativity and personal attacks.

Yes we have our differing opinions.  Yes we can agree to disagree.  Yes we can discuss the pros and cons of the two search options or the suit or whatever else.  Yes we can provide feedback to Ancestry.com about our thoughts on what makes for the best search engine.  Yes we can respond to comments posted by others in a respectful manner.

Though, do please consider – is what you have to say appropriate to be “publicly” posted?  Might you write a personal message?  Were you using your filters? Just like in every day life – do we say everything we think as we think it?  Or do we “pause” “consider” “filter” and then respond.

Having been brought up to believe “treat others as you would like to be treated” and to also behave “professionally” (another way of saying “treat others as you would like to be treated”) – judgmental and personal attack statements just have no place in our community or the world. It makes me think that the ability to quickly type and disseminate ones thoughts does result in a bit of a disservice to us all. 

It’s personal and yet anonymous.  It’s off the cuff though now permanently archived until eternity.  This just wasn’t a conversation that was had – it’s documented for all to see in perpetuity.

Ask yourself – if you were in a room and having a frank discussion with others in our community – would you “say” the same things some have recently written?  If you were on the phone with a friend and said some of what we have recently read, would you then want to see those words in writing? It’s like when you have a personal argument with someone – did you count to 10 before responding? 

Please, let’s be civil and forward thinking as we communicate via the web.  Was that “personal” or “professional” bridge just burned worth it? Did you even realize it was burned in your fervor to make “your” point in whatever forum you were communicating in?

There is so much to love about the advances in technology and communication.  There is so much to love about our ability to readily communicate with people around the world.

And, there can be so much to regret if we act (translate that into post) something too quickly ... written words are much much harder to take back.  In fact, it’s almost impossible to take back a written word, or at least a publicly written word.  As we all know, it takes but a few minutes for someone’s publicly posted comments to be spread throughout forums both familiar and alien to us.

Please remember that just yesterday we celebrated the 4th of July – the founding of our country.  It’s founding was based on conflict and ultimately let to the Revolutionary War ... Not all conflicts though, need to lead to a war.  Reasoned and open and polite/respectful communication can benefit us all. 

As a country, we have used adversity and conflict to become the nation we live in today.  Let our genealogical community also use adversity and conflict to become stronger – let’s just try to do it in a meaningful, respectful and problem-solving (e.g. positive) manner ...

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8 July 2013 -- We had a nice discussion on FB about this post and I wanted to “share” part of it as an addendum to the post. You can view such as a “first pass” at addressing the issue raised by Lorine.  Additionally, look for a guest post on 11 July 2013 on this topic!!

The dialogue is reprinted with permission of both authors.

Lorine Massey -- Diane, I hope I am saying this politely but it is bothersome to me and thus I have to speak up. I loved your article and believed it was addressed appropriately to the entire global genealogy community -- until you said " we celebrated the 4th of July – the founding of our country." By saying that you immediately revoked the article encompassing the entire global community of genealogists to the American genealogy community. I am not sure you intended that (I hope not) but that sentence did it. Because as I know you are aware, we are a global community and not all of us live in the USA. I confess to feeling disappointed when I reached that point in your article and thought to myself "well, once again we Canadians, Brits, Aussies, Germans, etc are the forgotten people. Guess we aren't part of the genealogy community" I'm not meaning to sound spiteful or rude so I hope you take my comment as well-meant, but I am disappointed. And yes, if we were speaking together on the phone or in a room I would say this to you - gently, but I'd say it


Editor (aka Diane) -- I hear you Lorine and you are not rude at all! My original thinking was that I used the 4th of July celebration here as a "launching" pad (along with all that has recently happened) and so that kind of was the genesis of the article ... and, I did not intend at all to be US-centric (my English relatives are all horrified also!) ... No offense or exclusion was meant ... open to suggestions on how best to address!


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